“America Needs Its Nerds”, by Leonid Fridman, analyzes American society’s approach on how it views its intellectuals. In the following passage, Fridman describes how American society should stop looking down on academically serious people, by calling them “nerds” and “geeks”. Instead, these individuals should be treated with more respect. Also, he explains in the passage how Americans stress being social and athletic, rather than being intellectually adroit. Fridman develops his argument that America has anti-intellectual values by using the techniques of hyperbole, rhetorical questions, and logos.
Fridman uses hyperboles to prove to the reader that the American population needs to change its view on intellectualism. In the first paragraph, Fridman writes, “There is something very wrong with the system of values in a society that has only derogatory terms like nerd and geek.. ” (line 1-3). The words “very wrong” and “derogatory” are used as an exaggeration in order for Fridman to develop his case. He deliberately amplifies the situation to emphasize his point that America’s anti-intellectual values are wrong and need to be reversed.
According to Fridman, Americans viewing smart people as nerds and geek is degrading to an educated person, and these individuals should be better respected. Additionally, in the middle of the passage, Fridman uses another hyperbole, “Ostracized for their intelligence and refusal to conform to society’s anti-intellectual values, many are deprived of a chance to learn adequate social skills and acquire good communication tools” (line 23-27). Again, Fridman magnifies how erudite people are treated in American society by using words like “ostracized” and “deprived”.
He believes that learned people should be more valued among the American public. Throughout the passage, Fridman uses hyperboles to help develop his argument and to convince the reader that antiintellectualism in America needs to stop. In the last paragraph, Fridman uses back to back rhetorical questions to criticize society and demonstrate how America should change its priorities. Fridman criticizes that American society should stress academics, rather than athletics, if it wishes to be able to compete globally in politics and technology.
As he writes, “How can a country where typical parents are ashamed of their daughter studying mathematics instead of going dancing, or their son reading Weber while his friends play baseball, be expected to compete in the technology race with lapan or remain a leading political and cultural force in Europe? (line 47-52). By writing this as a rhetorical question, Fridman is able to demonstrate to the reader that America needs its nerds in order to make a presence in the world.
Additionally, on line 53 to 56, Fridman says, “How long can America remain a worldclass power if we constantly emphasize social skills and physical prowess over academic achievement and intellectual ability? ” (line 53-56). In this rhetorical question, Fridman openly criticizes America and says that if America wants to be great it should focus on academia. By using rhetorical questions, Fridman is successful in explaining to the audience why America needs to emphasize intelligence, rather than physical ability. In the passage, Fridman uses logos to additionally sharpen his argument.
He uses logic to explain to the reader how American society views its intellectuals. Fridman writes, in the first paragraph, how these individuals are called geeks and nerds. Then, in the second paragraph, he defines the term “geek”, using Webster’s New World Dictionary as a source, as a street performer who bits off heads of live chickens. He then goes on to say, “It is a telling fact about our language and our culture that someone dedicated to pursuit of knowledge is compared to a freak biting the head off a live chicken” (line 7-10).
In this quote, Fridman clearly states that it is evident how America views intellectuals by how they call them a freak. Fridman obviously uses logic to show the reader that academically interested people are not valued in society, and are rather looked down upon as weird. He uses this same technique again later on in the passage. Fridman writes, “In America, where average professional ballplayers are much more respected and better paid than faculty members of the best universities” (line 43-46).
This quote explains how it is a fact that professional sport players are paid more than educators. This demonstra how intellectuals’ paychecks also reflect how they are viewed in society. Fridman shows that American society values its physical abilities over its intellectual skill. Therefore, with logic and facts, Fridman was able to exhibit to the reader his argument. Throughout the passage, Fridman uses three rhetorical devices to develop his view on how society views its nerds.
Hyperboles are used to exaggerate and emphasize how American society treats its intellectuals. Likewise, Fridman uses rhetorical questions to criticize America’s values. He expresses that America needs its intellectually curious individuals, if it wants to remain a superpower. Lastly, logos is used to explain to the reader that intellectuals are viewed as freaks, are not respected, and are paid less than professional athletes. By using these devices, Fridman is successful in developing his argument.